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Penguin p-p-p-picks up skills

Margo the Magellanic penguin chick being held by Blackpool Zoo's head of birds, Johnpaul Houston, and the other bird keepers

Margo the Magellanic penguin chick being held by Blackpool Zoo's head of birds, Johnpaul Houston, and the other bird keepers

This unique little youngster has got an important life lesson to learn – how to be a penguin.

While it might look like it should come naturally, the country’s only Magellanic penguin chick is being hand-reared by keepers at Blackpool Zoo so things can be confusing. The chick was removed from its parents while still an egg, after being laid in an 
area that left it susceptible to predators.

But birds ‘imprint’ on the first thing they see, meaning they become attached to the identity of that human or animal, so now specialist bird keepers are working around the clock to ensure Margo grows up knowing its penguin status. This includes bolstering the baby with a 
super food diet of fishy milkshakes and giving a host of special lessons, from giving the chick a mirror to see its own reflection, to swimming lessons in the bird nursery and visits to see other 
penguins.

Head of birds John Paul Houston said: “We were 
delighted when Margo hatched and we have been working around the clock to ensure it stays fit and healthy.

“We don’t know the sex of the chick yet and this is determined through DNA testing, but we have decided to call it Margo after a friend of mine who shares its birthday. As birds imprint on the first thing they see it is vital we ensure that Margo understands what species he or she is.”

Blackpool Zoo is the only one in the country to house this species of penguin, characterised by their short, wedge shaped tails and long narrow wings used like paddles when they are swimming.

And the Zoo’s bird team have a good history of hand-rearing chicks, with last year’s 
‘graduates’ Gandalf and Pippin flourishing in the attraction’s Active Oceans Arena.

Since the colony of Magellanic penguins joined the East Park Drive zoo in 2009, keepers have also celebrated multiple parent-reared youngsters.

Mr Houston added: “As well as using the mirror to show Margo his or her 
reflection we will be introducing it to last year’s hand-rearing graduates Gandalf and Pippin.

“We are really pleased with the progress we have made and are sure that Margo will win the hearts of visitors over the summer.”

 

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